Help Your Guardian Angel: Health and Safety in Cambodia

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Before reading this guide, remember that, in most cases, Cambodia is just as safe as any other country in the area. Even if it’s poorer than Thailand and not as developed as Vietnam, there are no things you should do specifically just because you visit Cambodia. On the other hand, the monsoons, the dry air in February (and, conversely, the extremely wet September), this country’s standard of living, the fauna, flora, and, in some cases, even the local population form a structure that calls for specific cautions.

Health Tips – More Is Better than Less

First are the vaccinations. Cambodia does not officially require vaccinations, but you should consider them to avoid an entire cluster of possible diseases: yellow fever, malaria, typhoid fever, rabies, diphtheria, Hepatitis A, dengue fever, etc. It’s best to discuss this problem with your physician in order to determine what you need to do.
One Dollar, Sir!
Avoid by all costs diarrhea. Same goes for Hepatitis E. To do that, check closely your food for smell, taste, and color. If you don’t like its appearance or have the slightest impression that something’s wrong, don’t eat it. This is especially the case of street food which may be packed in inappropriate conditions.

You shouldn’t have unprotected sex while visiting the country. Statistically, STDs are more frequent here than in other parts of the world. This includes, but is not limited to, HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Herpes simplex.

Carry essential medication with you: pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, allergy medicines, antacids, and band aids. Even if you can find them in Cambodia, it’s preferable to have your own and to avoid local pharmacies.

Make sure you consume clean water. If you’re not 100% sure, boil it or simply don’t drink it. This is equally true for water you use to brush your teeth, rinse your mouth, etc. In Cambodia, water may be contaminated, leading to potentially life-threatening diseases. Drink bottled water.
Main street on island Don Khon

Safety Tips – Don’t Overdo It

In Cambodia, you’re neither safer, nor more unsafe than in any other neighboring country. As long as you follow a few simple rules, you should not have any problems during your stay. However, you should start from the assumption that people here are friendly (because they really are) and poor. So don’t get obsessed with your safety, but don’t neglect it either.

  • Never leave your luggage unattended; if you travel with a group, it’s easy. If you’re by yourself, check-in before you start visiting the surroundings. This is just as valid for towns as it is for villages.
  • Most thieves are to be found in bus stops and markets. When you’re in one of these two places, watch your purse, bag, rucksack, or whatever you carry. Keep your photo cameras close and your mobile closer.
  • Avoid travelling with $50 and $100 banknotes. There are many people in Cambodia who live with $1 a day. The image of such a banknote is a great temptation.
  • Negotiate reasonably; Cambodians are open to negotiations, but they don’t like to spend half a day for a transaction.
  • Stay away from areas that are not specifically designed for tourists. In the South this is not actually a problem, but in the North there still are mined fields that haven’t been detonated. If you have a guide, he or she should be able to provide you detailed information on this topic.
  • Don’t rely on local police. Better contact your country’s officials in Cambodia.